Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance
Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies
Something else altogether
All of the above
Monday, November 29, 2010
Snow Stopped Play
I had hoped to be posting a review tonight of a concert by the Manfreds (supported by Alan Price and Cliff Bennett). However, it was cancelled because of the heavy snow here: apparently the musicians are all stuck in Perth. I managed to get out to go shopping earlier, but it's been snowing hard again since, and right our road doesn't look lile somewhere safe to drive. I'm on a late shift tomorrow, but may have to work from home unless the weather improves.
The gig may be rescheduled, or we may just get our money back. Anyway,here are the Manfreds (these days they don't have Manfred Mann on the organ, but most of the others seem to be around).
It's no surprise that this quite interesting piece by Jeremy Paxman has Uncle Jimmy foaming at the mouth. After all, we can't have anyone criticising the Great Pretender, can we?
Most amusingly, he reprints and praises a complaint some imbecile sent to the BBC about the piece, because BBC guidelines state that "BBC presenters on BBC news or current affairs programmes must not express a view in any newspaper article on matters of current party political debate or political controversy".
I must have missed the part where the Iraq war was a matter of "current party political debate" or "polotical controversy". Perhaps Geert Wilders' party thinks it was a wonderful thing because it killed so many Muslims. It's only "controversial" to the kind of people who believe President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. Earth to nutjobs: complain all you like, the BBC has plenty of server space for deleted files.
In any case, what's "current" about Tony Blair and George W Bush? Neither of them is still in politics. Are BBC presenters to be banned from expressing opinions about Martin Luther King because some Southern US nutters still think he was a commie who deserved what he got? Just how irrelevant do politicians have to become before they can be written about? Could Paxman have written about the Suez crisis without Jimmy moaning? Of course not. MOOOOSLIMS!
The funniest part of the complaint is where the anonymous complainant claims that the invasion of Iraq was "a noble and successful endeavour to uphold UN resolutions, liberate the Iraqis and remove any possible threat of weapons of mass destruction being used in the region again". What makes that so risible is that the only country in the region possessing weapons of mass destruction, then, now, or in the foreseeable future, is Israel. Did the Iraq war rid the world of Israel's nuclear threat? Of course not. Why risk lives removing real WMDs when you can get better photo-opportunities pretending to remove imaginary ones?
But don't worry, Jimmy: the BBC is in no danger of altering its perpetual slavish pro-Israel and anti-Muslim editorial policy any time soon, no matter what Paxman writes in the Guardian.
And I can't post Mozart opera clips without giving you my utter favourite. I may have posted it before: what the hell. It comes from The Magic Flute, and is a duet ("Papagena, Papageno") that in almost every case is insufferably twee. Indeed, fond though I have always been of Flute (it was the very first opera I saw live) I had always rather cringed when this number came round (not far from the end). It took Ingmar Bergman, no less, to prove me wrong on that one. Here is his take on the duet, from his wonderful film version (in Swedish!) of The Magic Flute.
I'm putting this earworm in a separate post because I want to post more than one clip of it. It's Osmin's aria "O, wie will ich triumphieren" from Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, and it's generally reckoned to be the hardest bass aria in the standard repertoire. You won't mind hearing it three times: hey, it's Mozart, and on top form too.
What brought this one to mind was the realisation that Osmin is exactly the kind of caricature Muslim that Tony Blair and the rest of them are terrified of. And just as imaginary.
The first clip has subtitles, good notes, and on-screen comments explaining what makes it so hard. The performance itself, by Kurt Rydl, is decently acted but the low note is rather a disappointment.
OK, now we have a performance by Kurt Moll where the note is impeccably nailed, though the production doesn't give him much to do apart from shake a leg now abd then. I suspect the amazingly fast tempo is to help Moll hold that low note in tune all the way through: it must trim about a second from it.
Finally, my personal favourite even if the bottom D wobbles a bit. Martti Talvela is a fantastic singer and I love the production. You can hear the audience giggling at around 1:57 when..... but I won't spoil it for you.
To welcome my laptop home, a few pieces of music I've had running through my head recently.
A version of that last one was used for a Malaysian Airlines ad I kept seeing when I was staying in India. I'm disappointed that the ad isn't available on Youtube: it was a really good one, with pictures of an empty airport with little labels floating in the air where the people would be. The labels gave destinations and flight numbers, and the very last one was "DADDY.....COMING HOME......flight number whatever". Which was nice, as I was several thousand miles from my own kids at the time. (Came home by Virgin though: sorry, guys.)
Apologies for the aspect ratio: all the other clips from the film are normal, but this seems to be the only version of the Brando version (my favourite) available.
My laptop is returned from its holiday at PC Doctor of Roseburn, Edinburgh, where its faulty graphics chipset was diagnosed and replaced. Originally they suspected a hard drive problem, so this was comparatively good news. Most of my family, and indeed my god-daughter, have made use of PC Doctor's services recently, and their service has been uniformly excellent. It's the old story: the small trader providing better service for lower prices than the big chains like PC World.
It's good news that one of the USA' s political prisoners has finally had a proper trial. It is excellent news that evidence extracted by torture was not admitted. And it's good for several reasons that he was acquitted of 284 of his Soviet-style list of 285 "crimes". First because it shows that the court wasn't simply there to rubber-stamp the military authorities' assumptions of Muslim villainy; but also because it suggests that the evidence for the one charge on which he was convicted must have been pretty damn solid.
Twenty years sounds a reasonable sentence for conspiring to blow innocent people apart. Forty years might sound even better, and I wouldn't be upset if he got one of those awesome U.S. sentences of "life plus 25 years".
What does concern me is that Ghailani had been told that even if he'd been acquitted of all charges he wouldn't have been freed as long as the USA remains "at war" with al-Qaeda. Has the United States fallen to the standards of places like Burma and Israel, where if you're a political opponent of the regime you are simply re-arrested when you are acquired or have served your sentence?
That Pamela Geller believes that it should stoop to that level in unsurprising. What IS surprising is that her rant was published in the Guardian's Comment Is Free section, the one we're always being told by the wingnuts is a hotbed of Marxism and antisemitism where all dissent is censored. The presence of a piece - not a comment but an actual article - by Geller should nail that lie once and for all.
The comments are fun, though. Especially this link.
The Phil Woolas affair - why on Earth have so many people like David Milliband been protesting in favour of someone who was found guilty of electoral fraud? Or do they consider it OK for Blairites to make false accusations of support for terrorism? (Oh, wait, Saddam's supposed links to al-Qaeda: yes, I suppose they do.) It's reassuring that so many voters disagree.
Harriet Harman has shown real moral fibre in facing down the baying mob of pro-fraudsters. Perhaps cleansing the Labour Party of the stench of Tony Blair isn't simply going to mean stopping the anti-union, anti-Muslim and anti-Europe policies but will extend to reintroducing the concepts of honesty and integrity he discarded as outdated and, y'know, uncool. That would be a nice Christmas present for us all.
Whoever Uncle Jimmy really is, I have her/ him to thank for providing a link to this uplifting site.
As he did so indirectly, via the ludicrous CiFWatch, I assume he meant to ridicule it. Still, faced with a message from real Jews, equipped with morals and consciences, concerned about peace in the Middle East and prepared to do something about it, it's the we-know-what's-good-for-Israel-better-than-any-damned-Israelis Zionist bullies who end up looking ridiculous.
Islamophobic? Check. Homophobic? Check. Made-up history? Check. Living in a private world of paranoid delusion? Check.
But the clincher?
Augustus, from Birmingham, said she was touring Wales because a Christian Britain was important to her. "The whole civilisation comes from our Christian faith," she said. "Before that people were wandering around eating each other, like they did in Africa."
OK, Jimmy claims to be an atheist, but he insists that Britain's Christian values are key to our national identity. And he has reposted articles stating that Muslims are cannibals.
The resemblance is uncanny. Maybe she's his Auntie.
I have to thank BlairSupporter, aka Uncle Jimmy, for drawing my attention to a passage in George W Bush's memoirs where he quotes Tony Blair as saying (with regard to his appointment as Quartet representative in Israel/Palestine “If I win the Nobel peace prize, you’ll know I have failed.”
As Jimmy says, it's difficult to view this in any way other than as a description of Nobel Peace Laureates as failures.
Failures, Mr Blair?
Aung Sung Suu Kyi? Nelson Mandela? John Hume and David Trimble? Albert Schweitzer? Mikhail Gorbachev? Martin Luther King? Amnesty International? UNICEF?
If only Blair had achieved a tenth as much as any of those "failures", or taken a hundredth of the risks they ran, he might be almost worthy to lick Saddam Hussein's asshole. If only.
In the same post, meanwhile, Uncle Jimmy describes Bush's authorisation of the torture of innocent men, and his plans to invade yet more neutral countries, as "you know, all that doing his job stuff". Damn all those other US Presidents who left countries alone if they posed no threat, and who believed that torture was a deeply un-American activity. Communists, all of 'em, if not Muslims. Hell's teeth, the man criticises his beloved Tony Blair for being insufficiently anti-Muslim and for describing Geert Wilders, Uncle Jimmy's favourite Euronazi, as a racist. Blair doesn't witter on about "jihad" or criticise mythical plans for a universal caliphate, and thus to Jimmy is hopelessly out of touch with the reality of Islam, as set out on balanced, objective websites run by the Catholic Church and far-right American racists.
All of which goes to show that while Blair may be a pointless waste of DNA, a corrupt and greedy egotist who learned nothing at all from his time as a drain on the public purse, he is merely a deluded coward: unlike his supposed supporter who loses no opportunity to spread lies and hatred , not because he is stupid but because he is evil. If he had any integrity he would rename his ridiculous website "Install Geert Wilders as Military Dictator".
Today's best news was that Aung Sas Suu Kyi has been released from her twenty-year period of house arrest. Who knows what may come to pass as a result?
Now if even the Burmese military junta can eventually come to see the benefit to its image of releasing a high-profile dissident from open-ended detention, can we hope that Israel will release Mordechai Vanunu? Come on, Mr Netanyahu: if you can't handle fully-fledged democracy yet, surely you could at least experiment with as much as much as the Burmese dictators?
Henryk Gorecki, the Polish composer whose Symphony of Sorrowful Songs became an unlikely crossover hit back in the 1990s (unlikely because it is resolutely downbeat and has three longish movements, all slow) has died at the age of 76. I've just been listening to it again, and while not a bad piece I feel that the likelihood of a glut of performances to mark the composer's death may be too much of a good thing. Fifteen years or so on, I'd just reached the point where the music sounds fresh again: I hope it doesn't once more become a ubiquitous piece of musical wallpaper.
But dig out your recording again and play it once for the old dead guy who wrote it.
Yemeni Printer Cartridges and the "War" on "Terror"
A great post here from Craig Murray, which not only explodes the myth (all that was ever likely to explode) of the deadly terrorist plot foiled by our vigilant security services, but demonstrates once again what a national treasure the guy is. I'd gone over to his blog in the hope of finding some comments on the most recent allegations of organised and systematic torture by British forces in Iraq, but nothing yet.
Personally, I feel the reports show that Britain can't adopt the "Abu Ghraib defence", that it was all a question of a few rotten apples in the barrel. This was a barrel specifically trained to be rotten right through, inspection of which by those responsible for purity of its fruit was consistently denied, and where reports of putrefaction were suppressed by the Minsitry of Defence. This rottenness came from the top: if Blair didn't order it he must have been aware of it (assuming he was bothering to turn up for work) and was happy to make use of it.
If the promulgation of the Iraq war in itself had not brought sufficient shame on our country, the readiness by our "liberating" forces to resort to torture has reduced our moral standing to somewhere below that of the Taleban.
The Hollies, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 13 November 2010
I went along to this blast from the past with both my highly-enthusiastic grown-up children. (Hilary would have come had she not been playing in a concert of her own, rather to her disgust!)
First surprise: the Hollies played the evening with no support. The Usher Hall was pretty full, and the audience, while a bit slow to warm up, certainly hit good form later on, and by the second half were, if not bouncing (the average age was over fifty) definitely having fun. And some of them were dancing in the aisles.
Second surprise, though I should just have done the maths, was how few numbers other than famous hits they were required to do to fill an evening. And the third was their readiness to reinvent the classics. Listen To Me was done as a solo by Peter Howarth (the lead vocalist - Allan Clarke left eleven years ago, leaving Tony Hicks on guitar and Bobby Elliott on drums from the 1960s lineups). Look Through Any Window was slowed down and sung over a new riff with different harmonies: the riff bugged me until almost the end of the song when they started soloing over it and I realised it was the chord progression from Sultans Of Swing by Dire Straits. They did covers too: their Blowing In The Wind should be passed over quickly, making do as it did with only two of the three lines Dylan wrote for each verse. Their version of Bruce Springsteen's Sandy (Fourth of July) was wonderful: another Howarth solo effort, sung from the heart and making me feel that here was a second Springsteen song I wanted to hear again. Howarth described it as a slightly diffeent version from Bruce's, which the Youtube clips below demonstrate. While I do like the Springsteen original, I like the Hollies variant just as much: less geographically bound, but just as deeply felt.
Tony Hicks is still amazing on guitar, and indeed on a couple of modified electric guitars, on designed to produce a sitar sound for King Midas In Reverse, and the other producing the banjo sound so characteristic of Stop, Stop, Stop. And of course he, with Graham Nash and Allan Clarke, wrote most of the early Hollies hits. A true great.
We all had a marvellous evening, even though Vanessa's favourite song (Gasoline Alley Bred) appeared only as part of a medley, while mine (Stop, Stop, Stop) was dogged by mix-ups over which of Howarth's microphones was live. Would I go and see them again on the next tour? Damn right.
The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee I Can't Let Go Jennifer Eccles Sorry Suzanne King Midas In Reverse Dolphin Days She'd Kill For Me Sandy (Fourth Of July) Just One Look Yes I Will Stay Look Through Any Window Blowing In The Wind ===================== I'm Alive Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress Bus Stop On A Carousel The Baby Here I Go Again / Hey Willy / Gasoline Alley Bred (medley) Listen To Me Weakness Carrie Anne Stop, Stop, Stop The Air That I Breathe He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother ======================= Encore: Let Love Pass
Astonishing moral courage from President Eisenhower
I recently read Nigel Hamilton's excellent book American Caesars, modelled on The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius and giving short biographies of the twelve U.S. presidents from F. D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush. It is the kind of book that makes one revisit assumptions made on the basis of how US politics is reported in Britain. For example, in the UK we have generally lauded Jimmy Carter and pilloried Ronald Reagan. While not changing my opinion of their respective politics in the least, Hamilton's book demonstrates the appalling way in which Carter organised the White House, which significantly contributed to his disappointing record of achievenents in office (though he shone in his many good works after his retirement). Reagan, on the other hand, ran a very disciplined White House staff, and neither vacillated nor micro-managed. It's also hard to be too down on a president whose first words (scrawled on a piece of paper) following surgery to remove a would-be assassin's bullet were "I'd like to retake this scene starting from where I leave the hotel"; or on one who spotted a staffer's child in difficulties in the pool at a White House social and dived in personally - like the ex-lifeguard he was - to haul her out. While not sparing the younger Bush's presidential record, Hamilton judges him to have been an effective and decent Governor of Texas who simply went far beyond his ability in taking on the presidency, resulting in over-reliance on his self-serving advisors.
Yet it is Eisenhower, president when I was born yet the one about whom I knew least, who comes out of the book as the best of the bunch, or at least up there with FDR. In his dealings with the USSR he wasn't unduly belligerent but took no crap, as seen when he ordered the Berlin airlift.He left the world a better place on a whole lot of ways than the one he inherited.
The most astonishing Eisenhower story to me was that of his behaviour at the time of the Suez crisis. In 1956, at a time of heightened tension, with Britain and France preparing for war with Egypt, Israel launched an unprovoked and wholly opportunistic attack on Egypt to seize the Sinai. Britain, France & USA had a tripartite agreement to take military action if either Israel or her Arab neighbours violated frontiers or armistice lines. Britain and France simply ignored their commitment and attacked Egypt instead. Eisenhower, to his eternal credit, stood by his country's agreement even if meant he lost Jewish votes at home. He called for a ceasefire and for a military and trade embargo against Israel until it complied. In fact this display of backbone was as popular with American voters as with the rest of the world (UK & France excepted). Israel made blustery noises then caved in like any other neighbourhood bully. Now if only subsequent US presidents had that kind of moral fibre and had threatened to stop letting US taxpayers fund Israelis' lifestyle unless it complied with the law. It would have been back inside the 1967 border in less time than it took its armies to occupy the OT. After all, if it had to pay its own way without stealing produce and labour from its Palestinian captives and without massive handouts from the USA, Israel would probably only last a few months before slipping to the poverty level you'd expect of a Third World theocracy whose government has never had to learn self-sufficiency. Our own Tony Blair of course, both as PM and as Peace Envoy, has followed the British tradition of ignoring Israeli aggression and instead punishing its victims.
In 1966 Pres. Johnson knew that Israel had been developing nuclear weapons for three years and had now put warheads into missiles. In 1967 he realised that Israel was once again planning an attack on Egypt and that this would be a disaster for the Middle East and Western security, but the USA was militarily so overstretched in Vietnam that he could do nothing to stop it. In the event, of course, the massive Israeli military build-up was used not just against Egypt but against Jordan and Syria as well, neither of which had been expecting an attack (Egypt at least had been sabre-rattling, though it had no reason to expect an invasion). Israel was not "attacked" and "defending itself": exactly as in 1956, it launched a long-planned and unprovoked attack on unsuspecting neighbours. Shortly afterwards Israel made its contempt for the USA clear by attacking the USS Liberty, killing 34 sailors and wounding 171. The Liberty had been in international waters but observing Israeli military operations. A far less deadly attack by North Vietnam on the similarly engaged USS Maddox (in Vietnamese waters) had triggered the bombing of North Vietnam. Just think, if he'd been less bogged down in Vietnam maybe LBJ would have sent a few dozen B-52s to introduce Israel to the idea that crime doesn't pay. Sadly, that's a lesson it has never learned.
Sick racist humour from a member of the Knesset and Jewish supremacist rhetoric from a former Chief Rabbi are everyday occurrences which would attract little attention by themselves. But writing into law the equivalent of the signs one used to see in the windows of flats to let ,"No coloured or Irish": that should make all Israel's supporters in the UK, USA and elsewhere hang their heads in shame.
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Uncle Jimmy returns to the ignorant and illiterate Islam-bashing he loves so much
This would be a great anti-Muslim story were it not for the fact that the person complaining isn't a Muslim but a Mr Graham Webb-Lee who is getting sickened by the greay bacon smells being pumped out a few feet from his door. His daughter has an eating disorder and his Muslim friends have stopped visiting. I imagine ALL his friends have stopped visiting! And the useless DM can't even get the name of the TOWN right in the picture caption. Dickheads.
Uncle Jimmy describes the story (linked at the foot of this tedious rant) as "Cafe owner in Stockport ordered to remove extractor fan as smell of frying bacon offends passing Muslims. Yes. That is what is reported here. Soon? No exhaling if you eat bacon? You have been warned. " Passing Muslims? Oh, that would be the non-Muslim guy who lives nest door. Not too hot at this reading business, our Jimmy, is he? (See full dissection, including the several changes of headline, here.
Of course, Jimmy was preoccupied then with cheering Geert Wilders' retrial (about which I have already posted) and with having his usual go at Lauren Booth (see the rant linked above). Oh, well that and spouting psychobabble about how Tony Blair is a modern example of the archetypical Jungian hero, such as Christ and Dionysos. No, really, he does.
A lovely line from his diatribe against Ms Booth:
"And if you accept that you also worship at the altar of the consistent logic that says we were all Romans first, including those of the Egyptian Empire which preceded the Roman Empire by 4000 years."
The idea of a metaphor is obviously beyond his limited capacity. Anyway, wasn't it his "Christ-figure" Tony Blair (as publicly a Catholic as his sster-in-law is a Muslim) who enthused about the Roman artefacts "dating back before Roman times" that he'd been shown by the Israelis? Mind you, as many Israeli politicians believe that the borders of the state of Israel (founded 1948) were divinely decreed by God over four thousand years before it existed, you can see how he would get into the habit of such sloppy thinking.
Jimmy then goes on to quote the Quran as saying that only those apostates and other non-Muslims who actively engage in anti-Muslim hostilities are to be persecuted: all those peacefully inclined, it specifies, are to be left in peace. Jimmy, of course, can't simply see this as "live and let live unless someone is actually trying to kill you" (which is a far more moral stance than that adopted by most Christians down the ages, or indeed today). No, this means that anyone "defending freedom" is at risk of death from crazed Islamoloonies. Well, yes, if their defence of freedom involves calls for the persecution, expulsion, murder or whatever of Muslims, I suppose it does. hard to see how he leaps from that to "if you support the rights of homosexuals the crazies want to behead you". (Jimmy the homophobe need have no worries on that score.)
And on no evidence whatever he claims that Lauren Booth is unaware that there are different sects within Islam (primarily Sunni and Shia, but also many others - about as many as there are kinds of Christianity). Does he also consider her brother-in-law to be "naive and gullible" (which of course he is) and to be unaware that there are differences within Christianity (which of course he isn't) because he converted to Catholicism?
Keen as I am to take pot-shots at the whole "spring forward, fall back" nonsense....
.......someone at the Register should really run an idiot check on their stories.
Maybe a month ago, when Australia and NZ were moving ON to summer time, the iPhone bug would cause them to be woken up an hour late.
In the UK, however, we were moving OFF it, ie putting our clocks back. So misbehaving iPhones would have woken British users up an hour earlier than necessary. So I don't believe that there has been even a trickle of complaints of being woken up late.
(After reading the comments)
OK, now I'm REALLY confused. I can understand that maybe alarms set to (say) 0700 were held as 0700 GMT+1, which when we shifted back to GMT would mean they went off at 0800. Which is stupid of Apple. But then why were the people in Australia not woken early? Both populations can't have had their alarms made late! I still think there are reporters writing stuff without thinking it through. Bah!
Unthinking nonsense: the story of Daylight Saving Time (which, let us remember, was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin as a joke.)
So now all the hoo-hah of the US midterm elections is behind us. Congress has a new Speaker (the future's bright, the future's orange.....), but the Democrats still control the Senate. Sharron Angle didn't get in in Nevada, nor was Christine O'Donnell elected in Delaware. On the down side, Allen West, a Christian supremacist and biblical literalist who assaulted an Iraqi detainee while seving in Iraq, is now a Florida Congressman. Still, in further good news, Ilario Pantano, who didn't simply shoot a sidearm past the head of a helpless Iraqi but who admitted pouring 60 rounds from his rifle into two unarmed Iraqis (apparently into their backs as they knelt) before placing a sign with a mocking slogan on their corpses, was NOT elected for North Carolina. (His military prosecution for murder was dropped because of insufficient evidence.) American voters may expect an abysmally low standard of behaviour from their armed forces, but it seems Mr Pantano managed to fall below it.
Anyway, let us look back on one of the dirtiest and most dishonest election campaigns ever fought (and not only on the Republiocan side, let us add) and join the Guardian in its selection of the ten worst of the political ads. (And yes, of course "I'm not a witch, I'm you" is in there.) Don't miss the link to the great Democrat parody of the winning ad, BTW.
A couple of pictures taken last month (21 October) when Hilary and I climbed Morrone (a hill above Braemar: it's a Corbett, ie over 2500 ft but not up to the magic 3000 that would make it a Munro). It was the first time this winter we'd been walking in snow: OK, only a light dusting, but when we stopped for lunch there were snowballs blowing off the radio mast on the summit. The first picture is looking towards Lochnagar (not the familiar side you generally see on postcards and calendars but the corrie on the other side), while the second is looking up into the middle of the Cairngorms, with Cairn Toul on the left(and Cairngorm itself behind the cloud on the right).